Continuing preparation for AWV closure.
Today, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the launch of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Response Team. It includes the hiring of a national expert; increased staffing operating citywide 24/7; and new response trucks equipped with red lights, sirens, and digital messaging signs.
“As we build a better city, we must do all we can to prepare for a new era of tough traffic in Seattle and to limit the impact on commuters, residents, and employers. From investing in more transit to launching our new Response Team, we’re taking urgent action to manage congestion during this challenging time,” said Mayor Durkan. “Everyone who travels in and around our City must get ready and make a plan for the new normal for Seattle traffic. It is going to be a challenging time, and it will take all of us working together as we take some important steps to build a more vibrant city of the future.”
Coordinating to help people.
The SDOT Response Team focuses on Seattle’s busy arterial streets, with WSDOT Incident Response teams and King County traffic safety crews leading work on state and county roads. The addition of a city-level team strengthens results, helping to promptly remove debris in the street; move vehicles out of the traffic lane following a crash; assist stranded motorists; respond to traffic signal issues and fallen critical signs; and provide emergency traffic control during incidents. SDOT Deputy Director Rodney Maxie noted the importance of recent investments in the SDOT Response Team to clear streets and help people. “Seattle is one of just a few cities to have incident response teams on city streets. One minute of incident backup here can create four to 10 minutes of delay for drivers, freight, and bus riders. That adds up. Our SDOT Response Team helps keep people and goods moving during incidents, while reducing the risk of secondary collisions.”
Special equipment and tools.
The now 5-vehicle fleet of response vehicles each come prepared with tow ropes; traffic cones; fluorescent pink incident warning signs; saws to clear tree limbs; absorbent material to clear spills; fire extinguishers; jacks to change flat tires; battery jump starters; and GoJaks – which allow one person to lift a car’s tires off the ground, and push the car out of the way. The SDOT Response Team also leverages smart investments, such as the City’s Intelligent Transportation System technology and the recently expanded Seattle Transportation Operations Center. “It can be critical to warn drivers of a crash or roadway-impacting emergency, for their safety and that of the people on the scene,” said Seattle Police Department Assistant Chief Steve Hirjak. “With enhanced management of traffic at incidents, police and firefighters can safely focus on serving those in need.” The Federal Highway Administration established bright fluorescent pink as the color for signs indicating an incident, making them easy to distinguish from the familiar orange construction signs. One way to remember this is that when you see pink, think compassion, because someone is involved in an incident up ahead.
Smart preparation & training.
To guide the growth of the SDOT Response Team, a national expert was hired. Patricia Westsik has nine years of experience leading county-level incident management; two years of experience in a state transportation operations center; and 11 years of experience as a police officer. The Charles Street Dispatch Center is now also reporting to Westsik, under Sonia Palma as the manager, providing for a more cohesive team. Team members have had training to deal with crashes and other traffic incidents; Washington State Patrol defensive driving training; basic and intermediate chainsaw training; and training to earn certification on managing traffic around incidents. “This investment helps make the best use of our finite street space, as more people live and work in Seattle, and during events like the upcoming closure of SR 99,” said Mayor Durkan.
A network of safety.
The SDOT Response Team coordinates with partner agencies in the Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Program, including the Seattle Police Department (SPD); the Seattle Fire Department (SFD); Seattle City Light (SCL); Seattle Public Utilities (SPU); and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and SDOT’s Traffic Operations Center (TOC). “We are all are all part of the Traffic Incident Management Program, a network of agencies working together to clear incidents quickly, safely and efficiently,” said Seattle Fire Department Fire Chief Harold Scoggins. “By preventing backups, the SDOT Response Team can reduce response time for firefighters to respond to emergencies. That can save lives.”